Interview by: MargotBianca
Tell us a little something about yourself. What unique things do you have going on in your life?
I am a mother of 2 young children. My son London is 4 and my daughter Roxy just turned 4 months. Before they came along I worked (straight out of college) for 7 years as the Fine Arts Director at the local Jewish Community Center. Once my son was born I decided it would be best to stay home with him. Luckily I have a very supportive husband who works his butt off every day so I can do that! Right now the most unique thing I have swirling around in my universe (besides juggling my 2 kids and making art) is starting up a new handmade business with an old friend from my elementary years that I actually was reconnected with through Etsy 2 years ago. We will be doing a bit of what I did when I worked at the JCC and putting together art shows across the greater Charlotte area. Our business plans are still in the works but we are both really excited.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you started making your fabric paintings? It's an unusual process, it seems to me, and I'm curious to know more about how it developed.
I started making my fabric on wood pieces back in September of 2000. I had graduated the year before from Appalachian State University with a BFA in Fine Arts. I was primarily a painter but tended to be quite messy. In the search to keep the house I was renting from having paint splats all over the floor I discovered batik fabric. One of my roommates drug me to a quilting store one day and I fell in love with all the fabrics. I do not know how to sew so this was quite a surprise to me when I walked out of the fabric store with a huge pile of fat quarters. After some brain storming I went to work figuring out a way to use the fabrics much like paint, minus the mess. I have changed a few things here and there, like I use water-based polyurethane now instead of oil based, but for the most part my process has stayed the same throughout the years.
How did you begin selling your work on Etsy?
My son was exactly 8 weeks old when I decided to do a trunk show at a friend of a friends house. It was free and I was trying to find a way to sell my work as I already knew I was not going back to my day job once my 3 month maternity leave was up. I ended up stuck back in a room all myself and I think I sold one or two pieces to a friend. I was really bummed as I packed up and one of the girls selling jewelry came in to say hello. She asked me, as many others had that day, if I had a website and I did not. We got to talking and she gave me one of her business cards with her Etsy shop url on it. She told me about this really cool site called Etsy where you can use your shop name sort of like a website if you do not have one. I came home signed up that night. Listed my first piece the next day and sold something 3 days later. I was so excited to have found a home for my ever growing collection of “Shellieart”. I have never looked back!
What do you enjoy most about selling on Etsy?
I really love the connections with other artist and clients I have made by selling on Etsy. I just finished a custom piece today that a return customer commissioned me to make. This is her 5th custom order, I have done a piece for her wedding to the birth of her first child and now we are facebook friends too. I have one loyal customer who became such a good friend we talked over the phone several times. I helped her open up her own shop and now she is a very successful seller. Also, like I said earlier I reconnected with a friend I went to elementary school with. She saw my work and thought it might be me since I spell my name with an “ie” instead of an “ey” like most Shellie's. Now we are going into business together and talk weekly. As a stay at home mom, Etsy has given me outlet and connection to the world. The possibilities are endless and I am so grateful to Etsy for that!
It looks like you've done at least one collaboration with another Etsy seller (Polarity). Can you tell us how that came about, and how you felt about the project when it was done?
I have always been a fan of Cat with Polarity's work. She started up an artist series and I saw one of her lockets on twitter one day. I think I sent her a convo saying how cool they were and she immediately asked me if I wanted to collaborate on one with her. I think it was one of those right place at the right time kind of thing. I was very excited to be included and if you have not checked out all the other artist she works with you should!
What have been the most challenging aspects of selling your work on Etsy? What resources have you found to work through the difficulties?
Honestly, I have not had too many challenges along the way. My first year on Etsy I wanted to start selling reproduction prints of my originals but did not really know where to begin. I found a lot of help from various other sellers in the Etsy forums. Once I started selling prints I would get random convos here and there from sellers who also wanted to start selling prints as well. I always try to offer up as much information as I can since so many others were so kind to me when I was trying to figure it out.
After looking at all of your images together for a long time, I am struck by the real sense of life and movement they evoke. I'm wondering what you look at to get your ideas and inspiration.
I have several themes that seem to reoccur. I love all things outdoors, camping, cats, nude female figures, faces, kitchen/food, happy lovers, the mountains and of course the moon. I also find a lot of inspiration from music, lyrics, quotes and I absolutely love making custom pieces. I often times fall in love with most of my custom orders because I just thrive on others ideas brought to life through my eyes. I am always up for the challenge!
Is it easier for you to begin a piece, or finish it? Do you have many going at once, or do you focus on one at a time? And, How do you know when a piece is complete, versus when you might choose to add yet another layer?
Usually once I get started I fly through a piece. Once I draw it out then I go to my fabric drawers and pick out the fabric combination which is always fun. I can totally work on multiple pieces at time and do quite often. Because my process involves layers I do have to often wait for something to dry before I can draw on the details with colored pencil. Sometimes I will get to the point where the piece should be done but does not feel quite right. I may set it aside and sleep on it or add that one extra swirl or star or shadow and then I know it is done.
Besides making work for your Etsy shop, what do you do to stay busy?
I love gardening, cooking up new recipes (no baking though), and playing at the park. One thing I really miss doing since the new baby is rollerblading, hopefully I will get my rollerblades back out soon and head up to my favorite track. I also love making treasuries and am constantly making lists in my head or thinking of my next list idea. Once the kids are in bed at night my husband and I are known to open a good bottle of red wine and play cards. Any chance we get we head up to the mountains. And because my husband I are very close to our families on any given weekend we can be found at a family meal celebrating whatever holiday or someones birthday.
Do you have advice for people who are new to Etsy?
My first advice is try to take the best photos you can. I am still working on this one but even the most well established shops are. Also, be in contact with your customers. When I have a sale in my shop I right away send my customer a quick convo thanking them for their purchase. From there I send them one more convo when their order goes out and it's estimated arrival time. I try to treat my customers like I would want to be treated.
I notice that you come up with really creative titles for all of your pieces. As a person who has difficulty naming things, I'm wondering how you come up with titles that capture the imagination!
The funny thing is a lot of times the title is there before the image. When that happens I then work to illustrate the title. Often it is the opposite and I do not always have a well thought out title. I have been known to pick the brains of those around me until I decide on a good title. I carry a small sketch book in my purse and often a song will come on the radio and I pull a line from it that strikes me. I can quickly jot it down at the next red light or usually while I am sitting in my sons preschool line. The best titles are the ones I can't get out of my head, then I know I am on to something good.
What goals do you have for your work in the coming year? What changes and improvements do you want to make in your shop?
I really want to get back into working with encaustics and fabric together. I had just started dabbling in them when I found out I was pregnant. It does give off a toxin when heated so I had to take a long break from working with them. In the future I want to continue to improve my shop photos. I love what I do and I hope that shows through to those who stumble upon me!
You can find Shellie: